With a blink of the eye day 2 has come round in a flash and with a mid-day start time due to a couple of acoustic sets taking place it was going to be a full 12 hours of musical mayhem that lay ahead. Kicking things off in the VIP area is the upcoming “WHITE RAVEN DOWN” from Southend on Sea, featuring BILL TAYLOR / VOCALS
STU BAILEY / GUITAR
LUKE CHAPPELL / BASS
TOM MRAZEK / DRUMS.
It’s a relaxed atmosphere where we find a small gathering of around 50 people mainly seated with the 4 guys on stage preparing for their first ever acoustic show, any nerves were discounted with “BROKEN DOOR” with its doomy vocal from BILL TAYLOR and a single bongo drum keeping the tempo at an even flow until the end when the song naturally speeds up to a rocking close. The group then announce that they have put into place a well planned out set list but have left it in the van currently parked half a mile away !! With the venue filling up more and more we get a version of “TAKE ME” which in an acoustic set up has many twists and turns. To round off the set the group decide to pull off an hilarious cover of a Tenacious D song “TRIBUTE” with vocal impersonations a plenty and a snippet of “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” just for good measure.
Next up was a band that I had never seen live but a band who have brought out a great sounding debut album “100 % PROOF”. it will be interesting to see how their hard–hitting rock riffs are transformed into an acoustic set up.” THE DAMAGE IS DONE” with its stripped back rock n roll approach hits the spot immediately for GIN ANNIE and with vocalist “DAVE FOSTER” telling us all that half hour before the show he had his head in a towel fighting off the dreaded germs, it’s a miracle he achieved such a great vocal performance at all. Another song that got my attention was “NEW BAD HABIT” which got myself and the gathered punters clapping along to this classy track. So, although both bands got a very limited 20 minute set each, I have to say that the HRH organisers do a great job of organising these mini stripped back sets which are a vital part of the HRH package.
With time to take a walk round the merchandise stalls which included everything from vinyl, cd’s, jackets, boots, patches, jewellery and all manner of wacky metal artefacts it was nice just to have a few moments before the opening act on the main stage was due on.
The band given the task of opening Day 2 was “TWISTER” a up and coming group from the North East of England who recently won the HRH HIGHWAY TO HELL 2019 event and also a record deal with sister company OFF YER ROCKA recordings.
Songs such as “NATURAL SURVIVOR” with its stabbing effect guitar and solid drumming, it is a lovely slice of heavy duty pop / rock. “FIST FIGHT BY THE WATERSIDE” demonstrates a harder edge to the group with STEVE STOKER belting out the vocals and proving what a confident front man he is.
I enjoyed this song very much and enjoyed the story that was told to us by the group who whilst a bit drunk one night accidentally sent the wrong song off to a PR company, the song was “MONROE” and what a belting song and the best mistake they ever made because it was picked up by KERRANG magazine and got to number 1. I can fully understand why this young band have got to where they are right now and speaking to STEVE STOKER later in the day, he explained that he started writing his own material when he was 14 years old. With that sort of dedication and the hard work they put in on stage it’s only a matter of time before they take another step up the ladder.
“BETH BLADE AND THE BEUTIFUL DISASTERS” Talk about a rock n roll attitude this 4–piece outfit from Cardiff, Wales fronted by the BETH BLADE know how to tear up a venue with their non–stop relentless onslaught of meaty hooks and punk rock attitude.
Helping the band out tonight is Tigertailz bassist “BERTI” who as per usual does a good job of helping to keep the mayhem in time. In her red leather jacket BETH urges the crowd to get on their feet instead of it being like a wet Wednesday in Grimsby. Although they can display a sensitive side to their live shows it’s the head down rockers like “ I AINT GOT NOTHING” ( if I ain’t got rock n roll) that the gathered seem to enjoy most. “ON and ON” from the latest album ( SHOW ME YOUR TEETH) is a fair indicator of what this outfit is all about with its sharp guitars and crisp vocals.
Any track dedicated to LEMMY is obviously going to be a good time drinking song and with that in mind they launch into “JACK and COKE” the groups party moment and time for those twin guitars to fire up and flatten us all again. Such a good set from this confident band and enjoyed by the packed out crowd.
Without having time to catch our breaths it’s a quick change of stage equipment and another Welsh band is in our midst, a band that have simply progressed faster then any other UK act this last year. “THOSE DAMN CROWS” are going from strength to strength not only with their studio output but also by the performances shown on stage, which just get better and tighter every time I see them. Today is no exception and to say they have a stick of dynamite up their arses is an understatement.
With so many people crammed into the main stage venue it was for me impossible to really get a visual even with a pass to the VIP area, the place was just heaving, in fact many more people were gathered than for REEF who headlined last night. The band have a killer weapon in vocalist SHANE GREENHALL who not only has the pipes but also the stage craft and as a little extra, plenty of banter. ”LONG TIME DEAD” a new song that instantly hits you as very catchy with a fancy drum beat and bass section, leading to the front man running off stage and disappearing somewhere in the crowd.
“BEHIND THESE WALLS” slows up proceedings with the HRH choir in full voice and I guess was the moment that it dawned on me just how much this group are admired. They even found time to throw in a few bars of “PINBALL WIZARD” before a giant 9 foot teddy bear turns up in the crowd to every ones delight and amazement causing the band members to comment and crack a smile, as no one knew who was in the costume but that is what makes a festival, the crazy people that attend.
A quick blast of “LIVE AND LET DIE” with IAN THOMAS and DAVID WINCHURCH firing up the guitars keeping the tempo in full flow. As the set draws to a close another song that grabbed my attention was “BLINK OF AN EYE” with its soft textured opening it keeps on building and building with huge depth and in your face drums with all band members knowing the end of the set is just around the corner and once again they have just smashed it. Brilliant group and brilliant live.
After yesterday’s CLOVEN HOOF performance, it was down to another band who have been around for an eternity the legend that is PRAYING MANTIS. Originally formed way back in 1973 they began to hit their stride in 1979 with the outbreak of N.W.O.B.H.M. With founder members TINO TROY / guitar and CHRIS TROY / bass they are fronted by JOHN “JAYCEE” CUIJPERS, with the amazing ANDY BURGESS / Guitar and finally HANS IN T ZANDT / drums. The band have always thrived on their melodic use of the guitars and set opener “ CAPTURED CITY” with its fine use of wah wah effect very much a classic sounding heavy metal song from back in the day.
The guitars are stripped back for the more laid back “BELIEVABLE” and with good lighting affect the track comes over as very restrained but still packing that punch. This group seriously are as tight as a drum and new song “KEEP IT ALIVE” shows the modern song writing is still of a very high standard and the band certainly not resting on their laurels. Another thing the band achieve is back up vocals on a couple of songs that remind me of the great URIAH HEEP filling every space of the track to the brim. One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was the cover of the LYNYRYD SKYNYRYD track “SIMPLE MAN” performed with a jaw dropping vocal and a perfect replica of the original with BURGESS in his instantly recognisable style peeling of the hooks to this timeless track. With a final one, two of “LETTING GO” and another classic in “CHILDREN OF THE EARTH” they left the stage to a well deserved roar and once again these old school rockers had shown the young guns a trick or two.
I had 20 minutes to get myself, a coffee and a snack before “BRIAN DOWNEY” and his live and dangerous outfit were due on, so on my return duly refreshed it was lovely to see so many people here to witness the great music of the much missed THIN LIZZY and more importantly one of the most classy rock drummers of our time. For me, who as a kid and fascinated by the drums I played the LIZZY live album to death admiring how DOWNEY can make a drum solo sound like a steam train and tonight I will get the chance to witness first hand how he creates such a huge sound on his kit.
Opening up with JAILBREAK the first thing that smacks you right between the eyes is the front man bassist MATT WILSON who not only adopts the LYNOTT stance with legs wide apart but also replicates the vocals to a spooky match. The next hour is a THIN LIZZY fans dream, EMERALD with the extended dual guitar break, known the world over as one of their best songs is music to everyone’s ears and after two songs we knew we were in for something special tonight. It was so easy to predict the set list with SOUTHBOUND,ROSALIE,MASSACRE, a hugely emotional STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU played perfectly by guitarists PHIL EDGAR and BRIAN GRACE who are mighty fine musicians who never ran around the stage hogging the limelight, just providing the riffs, while everyone was watching DOWNEY and transfixed by the frontman.
Then the opening bars of SHA LA LA LA LA comes roaring from the speaker and after a 40 year wait I was going to finally find out how the great drummer makes that unique sound. Fast forward five minutes and I am still none the wiser, all I know is the noise and the speed he created will stay with me for another 40 years. Fan boy moment indeed. COWBOY SONG is greeted with a huge howl from the crowd just like on the live album which was a lovely moment and also a bit emotional to many people. With a short sharp run through of BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN its left to the one song that best describes the much missed PHIL LYNOTT the amazing BLACK ROSE a song steeped in so much Irish history including the traditional style with the song jigging and those beautiful sounding guitars that stretch on and on, and of course the final speeded up section and a “yee haw” that was so like the original it was uncanny. All in all, a lovely set played with respect and for myself a dream come true.
Rewind 48 hours and TOBY JEPSON was on this very stage picking up his well deserved HRH LEGEND award. As WAYWARD SONS walk out on stage it is back to the day job and as per usual the lads rip through a hour long professional, loud set with plenty of stage banter especially between guitarist SAM WOOD and TOBY. I think it’s fair to say the band have had a huge year with many people now becoming aware through the constant touring that this is a classy outfit. We get the old stuff “GHOST OF YET TO COME” we get the new stuff “JOKES ON YOU” one of the cracking singles from the new album. The heat on stage was getting to the point where TOBY was passed a pint from the audience.
Keyboardist DAVE KEMP with his usual flat cap on decided to partake in some honky tonk piano which created the chance for a jam that introduced UNION CITY BLUES by BLONDIE and produced another fine sing along. CRUSH was given a riff heavy work out and I can’t think of a catchier song in their set list. Although I still have not got round to hearing the new album they played “LITTLE WHITE LIES” from the record and it sounded very fresh and very different. Next year if the organisers of HRH awards add another category ( most reliable stage act ) I know who the winners would be.
If ever a band deserve overdue success it’s the chaps from GUN. Out supporting an unbelievable 30 years this was simply put going to be greatest hits set. With smiles as wide as the Dartford River Crossing from the group we get everything the fans wanted to hear. Brothers DANTE and JOOLS GIZZI have steered the ship through rough waters over the years but thankfully its now payback time with DANTE being a fine front man and lead singer.
TOMMY GENTRY also has become a great choice as the second guitarist laying down some mighty chops. As far as the set list goes who is going to argue with the likes of WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD, WORD UP, BETTER DAYS, DON’T SAY IT’S OVER and from the debut album INSIDE OUTSIDE LOVE. What a way to spend a Friday evening listening to these fantastic songs. FAVOURITE PLEASURES from their most recent studio album was slipped into the set and if I am honest, never made the momentum drop for a second and showed that the group are as proud of their modern material as they are of their classics.
Finally the time has come for the Head liners BUCKCHERRY to bring their hi-octane American rock n roll sleaze to Norfolk. Before we know it the main man JOSH TODD is standing centre stage looking slinky and striking in his blue bandana with tambourine in hand. Its’ a quick shuffle of the hips and it’s a huge HEAD LIKE A HOLE that sends the tightly packed venue potty. By the end of “RIDIN” off comes the jacket showing a torso, back, arms covered in tattoos that is like a tapestry. “RADIO SONG” and the angst ridden SOMEBODY FUCKED WITH ME passed in a blink of an eye with the latter track bringing out more than a wry smile from those watching.
With JOSH TODD being the focal point you cannot take anything away from the other band members who were all visual and very talented. The group then take us back to 1999 with a seismic version of “LIT UP” that made your fillings rattle and then a take on “FOOTLOOSE” showing the comical side to this band. This show had parts where it made RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE sound like ED SHEERAN such was the ferocity of it’s delivery as well as softer moments and bizarre moments like a cover of JUNGLE BOOGIE. Towards the end of the set I decided to make a head for the exit before everyone else decided to leave, so I left BUCKCHERRY blasting out the speakers safe in the knowledge they fully deserve to be head liners.
Photography by Darren Smith
Review by Steve Bruty